After 24 seasons overall, including seven at Notre Dame, some things have never changed for Irish head softball coach Liz Miller.
Through the program?s 10 years of existence, the Irish have never fallen below the 30-win mark and continue to set records and receive honors that have never been done before.
Miller led the Irish to yet another unprecendented season in 1999, finishing 42-20 overall and for the first time capturing the BIG EAST Tournament Championship. The 1999 Irish went undefeated against conference foes (19-0) before finishing the team?s season at the NCAA Region 6 Tournament, falling to Nebraska in an extra-inning affair. The team?s success in 1999 was only furthered by Miller?s personal milestone of reaching 800 career victories, which she achieved with the team?s 9-1 victory over Rutgers on April 10.
Some of the new milestones that the team, under Miller?s guidance, achieved in 1999 included a sweep of the major player awards of the BIG EAST Conference, with Jennifer Sharron earning pitcher-of-the-year honors for the second time in as many tries, shortstop/pitcher Melanie Alkire winning player-of-the-year honors and freshman Jarrah Myers being named the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. In all, six Notre Dame players were named to the 12-member 1999 all-BIG EAST first team, while a record five were named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) all-Mideast Region teams.
In 1998, Sharron became the first Notre Dame player and first freshman ever to win the BIG EAST Conference?s top pitcher award. Senior pitcher Kelly Nichols set the NCAA record for career saves with 24, while three freshmen were named to the BIG EAST all-rookie team, the most since the Irish joined the conference in 1996.
Only a year prior, Miller coached the team to a program-best batting average of .311 and in 1996, the Irish won 48 games, more than any other Notre Dame softball team. Of the 48 wins, 19 came during a school-record winning streak that spanned nearly a month during the season.
Another indication of the success of Notre Dame softball under Miller has been the national honors the Irish have received. Since 1994, Notre Dame has had four selections to the NFCA All-America list.
After winning three Midwestern Collegiate Conference regular season and tournament titles from 1993-95, Miller and her team moved into the BIG EAST Conference in 1996. In her first year in the BIG EAST, Miller led the team to a 19-1 record and the BIG EAST South Division title. Miller claimed BIG EAST coach-of-the-year honors as her team raced through the competition for the best BIG EAST regular-season record. In their four seasons in the BIG EAST Conference under Miller, the Irish have compiled the best record in the conference in those years at 64-8 with three BIG EAST South Division titles and one overall regular season title in 1999.
Her players have dominated the BIG EAST postseason awards, winning player of the year three times and pitcher and rookie of the year two times apiece. Miller?s teams have produced 16 all-BIG EAST first-team selections and nine second-team selections.
Miller?s players also have excelled in the classroom as well as on the diamond. Her players have earned GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors on 11 occasions in her seven seasons as head coach, already the third most of any sport in the long history of Notre Dame athletics. Three times the Irish have been recognized by the NFCA as one of the top-10 academic teams based on their overall team grade-point average.
With the addition of Miller in 1993, the Notre Dame softball program entered a new era in its short history. Miller became only the second coach in Irish softball history, and she has taken the success started by current assistant athletic director Brian Boulac and expanded it into the national spotlight.
A Bronson, Mich., native, Miller has plenty of experience in athletic administration, as well as in coaching a number of different women?s sports. As athletic director at Lake Michigan Community College in Benton Harbor, Mich., she implemented the women?s athletic program and from 1974-1991, the future member of the LMC Hall of Fame served as the head coach for volleyball, basketball and softball.
In her 17 years at LMC, Miller?s combined record for all sports was an unprecedented 1047-331, including a stellar 541-142 career record in softball. Miller?s success at the junior college level led to her induction into the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Coaches Hall of Fame in May of 1999.
In 1988, she resigned her post as volleyball coach after 15 years, but only after leading her teams to seven Western Conference championships and two NJCAA top-10 rankings in 1983 and 1984.
She remained the head softball coach, however, and during her tenure, she amassed 12 conference championships and 11 regional titles. From 1981 to 1985 her team finished in the nation?s top five, and from 1987 to 1991 the squad was ranked in the top 10 at season?s end. These streaks included a number-two finish in 1981 and a number-three ranking in 1982, 1983 and 1988. Throughout these years, Miller?s teams qualified for the NJCAA tournament 10 times.
Miller began her quest for athletic prominence at Western Michigan University, where she earned a bachelor?s degree in physical education in 1969 and a master?s degree in counseling and personnel in 1971. She played both field hockey and volleyball, while also spending six summers on an American Softball Association travel softball team. While in school, Miller presided over the Women?s Recreation Association as well and has since been named to the Western Michigan Athletic Hall of Fame.
Upon graduation, Miller began her professional career in the classroom, teaching in Michigan public schools for four years. Then she shifted her educational emphasis, leaving the classrooms and entering the athletic arena. Spanning all the way back to 1974, she had coached a number of ASA travel teams all the way through the summer of 1991, earning many divisional titles and other regional accolades.
Off the field, Miller?s husband of 32 years, Lloyd, is a partner at Crowe, Chizek & Company, an accounting firm in South Bend. She has two children, Jennifer, who graduated from Notre Dame in 1993, and Jeremy, a 1996 Notre Dame graduate.
The Liz Miller File
|1979||Lake Michigan||12||6||.667||Western Conference Champion|
|1980||Lake Michigan||19||5||.792||Western Conference Champion/Region XII Champion|
|1981||Lake Michigan||44||7||.863||2nd in nation/Western Conf. Champ./Region XII Champ.|
|1982||Lake Michigan||37||4||.902||3rd in nation/Western Conf. Champ./Region XII Champ.|
|1983||Lake Michigan||34||7||.829||3rd in nation/Western Conf. Champ./Region XII Champ.|
|1984||Lake Michigan||37||7||.841||5th in nation/Western Conf. Champ./Region XII Champ.|
|1985||Lake Michigan||34||9||.791||5th in nation/Western Conf. Champ./Region XII Champ.|
|1986||Lake Michigan||38||5||.884||Western Conference Champion|
|1987||Lake Michigan||47||10||.825||5th in nation/Western Conf. Champ./Region XII Champ.|
|1988||Lake Michigan||48||11||.814||3rd in nation/Western Conf. Champ./Region XII Champ.|
|1989||Lake Michigan||49||14||.778||5th in nation/Western Conf. Champ./Region XII Champ.|
|1990||Lake Michigan||39||14||.736||7th in nation/Region XII Champion|
|1991||Lake Michigan||49||7||.875||7th in nation/Western Conf. Champ./Region XII Champ.|
|17-Year Record||?||541||142||.792||10 National Top 10 Finishes/12 Western Conference Championships/ 10 Region XII Championships|
MCC Champion/Ranked Fourth in Region
MCC Champion/NCAA Mideast Region/MCC Coach of Year
MCC Champion/NCAA Region I Runner-Up/MCC Coach of Year
BIG EAST South Division Champion/NCAA Region II/BIG EAST Coach of the Year
BIG EAST South Division Champion
BIG EAST South Division Champion
BIG EAST Tournament and Regular Season Champions/NCAA Region 6 Tournament
Four NCAA Appearances/Four Conference Championships/
Three-Time Conference Coach of the Year